April 2006

Saving the world one step at a time

By Suzanne Strazza

Listening to the news yesterday, I had that uncomfortable feeling of needing to “do something” to get us out of the plight we seem to have found ourselves in. Being fully confident in my ability to influence people, I decided I should just write a letter or two; if worded well and sent to the right folks, clearly I could make a difference. I would be rational and convincing, and then, the receivers of these letters would slap their foreheads at their own stupidity and stop what it is that I am asking them to stop.

So, I mentally began to compose my correspondence… “Dear Mr. Bin Laden …may I call you Osama?” and “Mr. Bush, just a note from a concerned citizen…” I then went on (mentally of course) to ask the two of them to stop this silly nonsense and let's all get on with our lives.

When my boys seem relentless in their battling, the voice of reason (mine) will eventually break through their anger-induced fog and they can settle their differences and move on. I remind them they were once friends and probably will be again and that seems to settle the disagreement. Why wouldn’t it work for the big boys too?

In the next moment, one of utter clarity, I realized that my letters, no matter how well worded, probably wouldn’t do that rmuch good. So, I tuned out NPR and tuned in to the Partridge Family.

As I rocked out to the beloved voice of David Cassidy (aka Keith Partridge), reminiscing about days gone by when life was simple and all we had to worry about was whether the family would make it to their concert on time, I wondered what I could do to help. Remember when the Partridges were on their way to yet another sold-out concert and they ran into the runaway teenage girl who just wanted to get home to her grandmother? They took her a few hundred miles out of their way to Albuquerque. No inconvenience was too great in the name of helping another human being. Plus, they got a great song out of it.

But I’m not on tour, I don’t sing and I’m not as debonair as David Cassidy. So how do I have the ability to improve this world?

Jump ahead a few hours. I went to a friend’s last night; a couple of us were there. This woman is heading to court to finalize a wretched divorce and life is hard. We helped her decide what to wear — earrings, blouse, bra. We properly badmouthed the soon-to-be-ex and told our friend she was beautiful, strong and competent. We made jokes about what she could say on the stand. We laughed through the tears.

Today, while she is in court, I will take her children. I will make sure they have a fun afternoon, enjoy a good dinner and know that they, too, are beautiful and much loved (not a hard task since I adore these kids). By taking them, I ensure my friend has one less thing to worry about for the day.

I am happy to do these things; it wouldn’t cross my mind not to. But another friend said, “You have no idea how much you are doing for her. Thank you.”

The proverbial light bulb went on. My letters to my pen pals Osama and Mr. Bush may do no good whatsoever. Chances are, they won’t even get written, much less read. I can’t walk into the capital and say, “Here’s what you can do to make life better for all of us.” I can’t shell out millions of dollars for AIDS research, I can’t single-handedly rebuild the southeastern United States and I can’t prevent an attack on Iran.

But I can help my community. I can offer my hand whenever someone asks, or better yet, before someone asks. I can give a child a little extra love and tell a woman she’s amazing when she’s feeling anything but. I can make a meal for a family having a hard time and I can take baby clothes to an expectant couple. Although these things may not seem like much, they sure give me that feeling of “doing something.”

When you feel frustrated, hopeless, ineffectual, just ask yourself…

“What would Keith Partridge do?”

Suzanne Strazza lives in Mancos.